The shoulder injury that has bothered Tim Wakefield for two months - forcing him to be scratched from a start in September and keeping him off the American League Division Series roster - will prevent the knuckleballer from pitching in the World Series.
Wakefield, a 17-game winner and the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox, had been slotted for Games 2 and 6, both in Fenway Park, before it was determined he was risking long-term damage by continuing to pitch this season.
"Could I pitch Game 2? Probably," Wakefield said yesterday, sitting alongside manager Terry Francona. "But are you going to get 100 percent out of Tim Wakefield? I don't know that, either.
"After that, I don't know, either, because dealing with this problem that I've had for the past two months, it seems like my recovery time is getting longer and longer and longer, and I just don't think it's fair to the other 24 guys on this team that I go out there and maybe I pitch well and maybe I don't, and then I'm not available for the rest of the series.
"It's not fair for the rest of the 24 guys in that clubhouse for me to put them through that."
While Francona declined to announce a fourth starter beyond his initial rotation of Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester threw four simulated innings yesterday and is expected to get the start in Game 4.
Though Wakefield seemed to indicate a desire to return next season, the injury - and questions about durability and dependability - puts his future with the Sox in jeopardy. The team holds a $4 million option on his contract for next season, which is renewed every season in perpetuity. But the injury, to the back of the shoulder, could change the team's desire to pick up that option on a pitcher who turns 42 next season.
Wakefield, subdued during the press conference, explained that he could have put his career in jeopardy had he tried to continue to pitch. He had thrown a side session Sunday and, based on being "maximum at 75 percent or 60 percent," Wakefield, pitching coach John Farrell, and the doctors determined that keeping him off the roster would be the best move.
Based on the MRI that Wakefield had in September, there is no structural damage to his "posterior shoulder," which is what Wakefield called the injury site. There is, however, inflammation, and with Wakefield's lengthy recovery time, which has been a major concern to doctors, there were questions. "If I keep throwing and throwing and throwing with swelling, it may cause impingement, it may tear something," Wakefield said.
Wakefield has received two cortisone shots over the past two months.
"Another reason why I'm here today is because if I continue to do this, based on the information I'm getting from the doctors, I'm seriously at risk of injuring myself for the rest of my life," Wakefield said. "So that had a lot of weight in the decision.
"Even though it's the World Series, and Tito has been around me, and a lot of you have been around me long enough to know, I'll go out there at 50 percent, I don't care.
"But again, like I alluded to before, I don't think it's fair to the 24 guys that are in that clubhouse, and I don't think it's fair to the organization, and I don't think it's fair to me, lastly, that I go out and injure myself and I'm not available for next year or the year after that."
The decision - which leaves Wakefield in the dugout for the second series of this postseason - "wasn't a lot of fun," Francona said. "That's part of the reason Wake is sitting here right now, because of our respect and regard for him, that it wasn't just a move made on paper and we'll go on.
"Sometimes doing the right thing is certainly not the fun thing, but it comes back to having respect for the organization, for the team, and for the players, and that will never change."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.